Welcome back, Smokey Joe!
It's not a huge, fancy machine; just a Weber Smokey Joe, which I believe we got for free from somewhere. It's a perfect size for two people--big enough for a couple of swordfish steaks plus surrounding veggies--but not something you could cater a party on.
And despite my best efforts, I have yet to find suitably sized utensils; everything we have (tongs, spatula, telescopic fork for long-distance poking) is designed for a monster uber-grill. The act of using them to, for instance, collect slices of zucchini is akin to Andre the Giant bringing his own sugar-spoon to a doll's tea-party.
But still, grilling has added a new dimension to our meals--and to our weekend routine--in three ways:
1) It exemplifies relaxation.
During the week, dinner is first priority of the evening. And because we usually arrive home hungry, we tend to make meals that come together quickly: poached fish, couscous, steamed veggies, etc.
Grilling takes time. There's a lot of waiting involved. The coals have to heat. The food cooks more slowly. So The Boy (as chief grill-cook) sits outside and keeps watch over Smokey Joe's progress in the yuppiest way possible: with a New Yorker and a glass of wine. There's no rush.
And now that we've figured out how long it takes to grill, we start earlier, so talk of dinner begins at around 5:30 (The Boy quickly learned that if he fired up the grill at regular dinner prep-time, he'd be retrieving the finished food in near-darkness).
2) It's a collaborative effort.
You know it, I know it: The Boy hogs the kitchen. Not that I'm complaining, mind you: everything he creates is tasty and interesting. And most days he gets home before me, so it means dinner is already underway when I arrive.
But still, it's nice to have some time in the kitchen by myself. So while The Boy is outside with Smokey Joe, I'll prep stuff for grilling and fix the sides, using the extra time to experiment with marinades and seasonings (a little fresh ginger in the salad? Why not?)
3) The results are fabulous.
Take last night. Flank steak, simply rubbed with sea salt and fresh-ground pepper. Asparagus in a little olive oil and more pepper. Both of the above grilled; the meat to a perfect, tender medium, the spears slightly charred on the tips.
The steak was topped with fresh-made chimichurri--fistfuls of cilantro whizzed in the blender with lime juice, olive oil, red onion, cider vinegar and garlic to make a loose pesto. On the side, a salad of organic greens, explosively tasty cherry tomatoes, cucumber, anjou pear and cheddar.
Dessert was peaches--already so sweet and juicy I had trouble splitting them--dusted with fresh-ground nutmeg before grilling. When they came off the heat, I poured a tiny amount of Cointreau across the cut surface, and it soaked into the fruit, heightening the sweetness nicely.
All this with a bottle of very good 2001 Conde de Valdemar Reserva Rioja (of which The Boy is contemplating buying a case).
We sat on the back porch, plates empty, finishing the wine and listening to music and the last moments of birdsong, and decided it was going to be a good summer.